“I Don’t See Color” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

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We will continue our series highlighting the voices of young diverse authors. Our next piece is an essay by Sabrina Dearinger challenging the myth of color blindness and the importance of celebrating and recognizing diversity. Sabrina is a graduate student at Northern Kentucky University, majoring in Education. She works as an educator in Kentucky schools.

By Sabrina Dearinger
Graduate Student at Northern Kentucky University

I see a question asked often in the world of educational learning: When did you have your first black teacher? I often think about this, hoping I’m forgetting a teacher somewhere in the past 20 years of education.

            I was raised in a family that drilled into my head, “We don’t see color, we see a human.” At the time, it was valid. We were in a society which only saw our black and Latin peers as humans, we did not see their history or their struggle. I was a child, struggling with my own barrel of problems, I did not see their struggles. My mother, whose upbringing was between a small Kentucky town and an even smaller Florida town, did not experience much diversity. She did not have any friends of color, she did not have peers at school of color, and she did not work with people of color. She knew it was not a good, easy life, but she did not understand the struggles going on within those communities. My mother did the best for her limited world view, she taught me to respect other people and not see them by their skin. I was taught to treat all people good and fair.

            As me and my mother have grown to welcome the ever changing world, we have learned a lot. I learned why we do not say “I don’t see skin color, I see a human.” I have learned ACAB does not mean every, single, police officer. I have learned that “Black on Black Crime” is a lie. I have learned that the “War on Drugs” was a “War on Minorities.” I have learned that it is not my place to judge the use of the N word in To Kill a Mockingbird. I have learned not to steal another culture’s most sacred traditions. I have learned to lean forward in my seat when passing a pulled over motorist. I have learned that melanin caressed skin is a critical detail when getting to know someone. I have learned how beautiful color is, and why we should see it.

            I have now taken two classes about diversity (in Graduate school, mind you) in which I have been assigned four textbooks to read. The first textbook sent me into a frenzy of “Culture and Diversity Professional Development Sessions,” despite the fact that I do not need to gain PD hours for another year. I have learned more in these two classes than I could have ever learned in school. I learned more than any book could show me. I’ve been taught to face my whiteness and use it to fight for diversity. I have used these classes to pass my textbooks onto my mother, who works in a school office, and calls me every three days to tell me about another tragedy in the black community. A tragedy that occurred long before I did.

            It is 2021, and us two white women are seeing our privilege. We have begun to realize that our long said saying is not the right way anymore, and we have begun to realize that our privilege is not a bad thing. Our privilege is a tool to help minority communities ascend to the level of honor and dignity they deserve to be at.

            I am on vacation in a tiny southern town in North Carolina writing this essay, asking myself when the first time I had a black teacher was. As I am surrounded by cabins, elk, mountains made of smoke, a flock of “Trump 2024” signs, a tavern of white folk, and a myriad of “We back the Blue” letter boards; I realize the answer is my freshman year of college. Professor Brittany.

            Who was yours?


  1. The title of this article stood out to me in relation to our textbook in this course, Are We Really Equal? The text describes the term “colorblindness” as false, for everyone does see color and race has social consequences. My first black teacher was in 3rd grade and I grew up in a diverse school, having many peers and friends of color. But I too had the “we are all people” outlook before furthering my education on racial studies purposefully. Peoples of color are oppressed in our country and are set up to fail. By saying you do not see color invalidates these peoples struggles.

  2. This article relates to me in a way, as I often find myself questioning when was the first Hispanic teacher I had in school. I Think the quote of “I don’t see color” was meant to be a positive message and quote, but I think its meaning slowly got twisted as our generation grew. I also think it’s important to realize the true meaning behind other phrases commonly used in society at that time and even now. I think this article shows us just how important it is to do our own research and understanding, so we can know and recognize others’ struggles rather than ourselves. One positive thing is that I don’t think it’s too late for anyone to realize their own privilege. While some may be stubborn, others are willing to learn, and I think we should sometimes be there to help and give them understanding.

  3. I initially did not plan to use this article for this week’s response, but upon actually reading it the message really stuck with me. Similar to the author of the piece, I was taught growing up to be “color blind” and not to let the color of someone’s skin influence how I treated them in any aspect. But as I have gotten older, I have learned that the color of someone’s skin being different than my own means that they experience the world in a different way than I do and that I can ignore their experience. It took me a long time to realize that by ignoring the color of someone’s skin that I am also ignoring their experiences and their past and pretending like we are on equal playing fields on all aspects of life when that is simply not the truth.

  4. Thinking back to my education experiences, every single teacher I had until college was white. I grew up in a small town in Ohio, so its diversity was low, but This brought to light the lack of diversity in my education as well. I had previously thought that there was no harm in the phrase “I don’t see color” but now looking at it, it can be very harmful. We should see color, not as a bad thing, but to cherish each others differences and to learn of other cultures that may not be our own. If everyone were the same, We wouldn’t have the enriched world we have today.

  5. The author was taught a lesson growing up by her mother “I don’t see color, we see a human” but she soon found out how false this statement really was. When one has not experienced color in the world they only see humans, but like the author, she gained an understanding of diversity and the struggles, she embraced each one and the privilege would be beneficial for her as she uses it as a tool to help minority communities. She learned that it is good to see color.

  6. I loved this essay and how she explained her and her mother’s upbringing and how it impacted her. Her mother grew up in a small town in Kentucky and did not experience any color and I had the same experience. It is interesting how she strayed away from what her mother taught her to experience color differently.

  7. I really liked this article. I love the growth that was shown and the conviction that it was written with. I cannot remember the first time I had a Black teacher. I believe it is this semester with Dr. Childs. But none the less I grew up not realizing the struggles of the Black community just like Mrs. Dearinger. It was not until I became friends who grew up in those communities that my eyes were opened to it. I love that she is now trying to use her privilege for the betterment of other people. That is humbling and something that I and others need to do more of!

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this essay. Most of the time, when people say, “I don’t see color”, they mean it to have a positive connotation- but that is not the case. Not seeing color is not understanding the hardships and history the people of their past went through. “I don’t see color” folks believe in equality, not equity, & they are vastly different.

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